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BBC Wales's Social Affairs Correspondent Gail Foley
"Swedish children have the legal right not to be smacked"
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BBC Wales Parliament Correspondent David Cornock
"There's been a general welcome for the idea of the commissioner, but perhaps the idea does not go far enough"
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Human Rights expert Dr Ursula Killkelly
"There exists a comprehensive body of law which sets out the standards of treatment that children must enjoy"
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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 20:12 GMT
Law change to protect children
Abuse graphic
The Waterhouse report calls for a children's commissioner
The government has announced plans to change the law to create an independent Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Ministers will amend a Bill currently going through Parliament to introduce the new post in response to the Waterhouse report into child abuse in north Wales.

Sir Ronald Waterhouse's report, after a three-year inquiry, found that hundreds of children had been systematically sexually exploited and brutalised over a 20-year period.

Opening the annual Welsh affairs debate, Secretary of State for Wales Paul Murphy said the report was a "catalogue of the most appalling and unforgiveable acts of random abuse and violence directed against some of the most vulnerable members of our society".

The Commissioner would have powers of "monitoring and oversight of complaints and whistle-blowing for children in care".

Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy - changes in the Care Standards Bill
He added: "By acting to establish a Children's Commissioner, this House will be making its contribution to making such abuses and betrayals as few and far between as is humanly possible.

"None of us can guarantee such abuse will never recur, any more than we can legislate to abolish evil, but we can use what powers we do have to offer the maximum degree of protection from that evil."

He said the Government would consider fully recommendations from the National Assembly for the Commissioner to have wider-ranging powers that go beyond children in care.

In Wales, Jane Hutt has told the National Assembly's Health Committee that the amendment would only cover "children in need and children living away from home".

'Excellent news'

But she said the Assembly would be able to ask the commissioner to look at wider issues if necessary.

Llanelli AM Helen Mary Jones called the announcement "excellent news" but warned it should be just the first step.

She said that the Assembly had signalled that it wanted a commissioner with wider powers and hoped that it would still be established.

The National Assembly is to discuss its response to the 500,000-word Waterhouse report next week.

Swedish Ombudsman Louise Sylwander:
Swedish Ombudsman Louise Sylwander: Is effective
The commissioner will potentially have greater powers than the local authority children's rights officers planned for the regions of England.

Many European countries - most especially the Nordic states - have had children's spokesmen for several years.

Louise Sylwander has been the children's ombudsman in Sweden for seven years.

She has no statutory powers to implement investigations or look into complaints, but the government has to listen to her when framing legislation.

"We can't take away child abuse, but we can definitely do something about it when it occurs," she said.

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15 Feb 00 |  Wales
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